Green space managers urged to apply for cash as Big Lottery Fund commits £10m

Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) landscape and natural heritage chief Drew Bennellick has urged green space managers to apply for parks regeneration cash as the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) confirmed that it had rejoined the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in support of parks in England.

The Parks for People programme will receive £10m for 2010/11. This means the total grants pot will grow to £30m, helping park managers facing budget cuts.

A joint HLF/BIG statement said: "BIG recognises the importance of the regeneration and conservation of public parks and the additional funding will see even more people enjoy safer and improved facilities at their local parks, bringing whole communities closer together.

"HLF and BIG hope this extra investment will inspire more local authorities, trusts and local communities to come forward with plans for those public parks that are most in need."

Bennellick, who oversees the scheme, said it was vital parks providers applied for the money because there was a danger it would be withdrawn if the demand was perceived to be lacking.

He added: "Over the past two or three years there has been a reduction in the number of applications and the amounts people are asking for. This year we have the BIG £10m so there is a real opportunity for people to get applications in."

The scheme had its beginnings in the HLF's urban parks programme, run by consultant Stewart Harding from 1996 to 2000. He welcomed the news but said he was disappointed that funding had only been guaranteed for one year.

He added: "People need certainty that the money is going to be there for a few years because putting an application together takes a long time. There are issues with partnership funding but it's not just that. There is a lack of capacity to put bids together - they just don't have the people."

Bennellick acknowledged the issue of match funding but said it was essential authorities invested in the schemes to help ensure they would be properly maintained. "My worry is that the staff in charge of bringing in funding are the ones whose posts are under threat, which could lead to a fall in applications," he warned.

The next deadline for applications is 31 August. Bennellick urged parks authorities considering applications to HLF advice before engaging in the process.

A public consultation is underway to determine the future of the main lottery funds, which could see part of BIG's share redistributed to the HLF, art and sport. It proposed reducing BIG to 40 per cent by 2012 and increasing the other three sectors to 20 per cent each.

BIG director of policy and partnerships Gerald Oppenheim said the consultation was a minor barrier to a long-term funding decision but the main reason for the single year's commitment lay in the new Government's desire to see BIG fund only community, voluntary and charitable organisations.

"Ministers have said they want us to concentrate on funds elsewhere rather than on statutory bodies such as local authorities," said Oppenheim. "If that is the way they decide to go that will have to be the subject of a separate consultation in due course, but I cannot say when that would happen."

- To take part in the consultation visit www.culture.gov.uk/consultations/7070.aspx.


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